Email deliverability issues? Here are the 5 questions you should be asking
If you're an email marketer who's experiencing problems with deliverability, columnist Scott Heimes discusses the steps you can take to diagnose and solve the problem.
Email marketing is the most important vehicle for reaching new and existing customers throughout the year. Businesses can utilize email marketing campaigns as a way to showcase new products, introduce new promotions and re-engage customers who haven’t shopped in a while.
But with more than 20 percent of legitimate marketing email never reaching the recipient’s inbox, businesses need to follow some key steps to ensure their email marketing campaigns are successful. Here are some of the top questions you should be asking if you want to get to the bottom of your email deliverability issues.
Do you know your sender reputation?
The delivery rate of your email marketing campaign relies heavily on your sending reputation. Internet service providers (ISPs) monitor many factors to decide whether or not to block certain emails, but your sender reputation is at the top of the list. If you have a poor sender reputation, you’re compromising your chances of reaching the inbox.
Maintaining your sender reputation requires constant vigilance, as it can fluctuate from campaign to campaign. Make sure you have the basics covered: a double opt-in strategy will ensure your list is healthy and engaged, and clear ways to unsubscribe will dramatically reduce the number of spam complaints you’ll get from disgruntled subscribers who can’t find the button.
There are websites that can help you measure and monitor your sender reputation over time: both Sender Score and SenderBase are great places to start for measuring your reputation. If you find that your sender reputation has fallen recently, it might be time to analyze what’s going on — and quickly!
Have you received any complaints recently?
Complaints are very dangerous for email senders — they send a particularly strong message that you’re doing something wrong, as your recipient has actively decided to alert you and their ISP that something’s not right.
If you’re receiving complaints about your email, you’ll need to take a good hard look at what you’re sending and to whom you’re sending it. Look at engagement rates across your campaigns to determine what your readers are most interested in, and tailor your content accordingly. Make sure you have enough information about your recipients’ interests so that you can send them email that is actually relevant to them. This will reduce the likelihood of complaints.
Email feedback loops are a fantastic tool for keeping an eye on your complaint rates. They help senders cleanse their lists of uninterested readers and help provide more solid information about how recipients are responding to your sending frequency and content. If you’re not familiar with feedback loops, it’s worth checking whether your email provider supports them or whether you’ll need to enable them yourself.
Have you authenticated your emails?
Most people have received a fraudulent email that looks like it was delivered by a trusted brand. This type of activity is called phishing, and because it is so common, ISPs take strong action against it.
Authenticating your emails is a function intended to guard against phishing; think of it as a signature of authenticity proving that your email really does come from you and is to be trusted.
When you sign your email with SPF and/or DKIM, you’re helping to inhibit spammers by giving ISPs more information about where your email should and shouldn’t be coming from. Always make sure your email is authenticated — otherwise it may be delivered into the spam folder.
Are you blacklisted?
If you receive a lot of complaints, you may be put on a blacklist. Once you’re on a blacklist, it will be very difficult to deliver email to your recipients. There are a lot of blacklists, but a good starting point is checking to see if your IPs or domains are on any of these popular lists: Spamhaus, SURBL, Barracuda Reputation Block List, Invalument, Spamcop, MultiRBL.
If you’re on a blacklist, the key is to be proactive about it. If you show that you’re willing to improve and make steps to do so, the better off you’ll be.
Do you have a new IP?
We’ve explored a lot of ways to manage your existing reputation and mitigate negative influences on your reputation, but what if you’re starting out with no reputation at all?
That’s exactly the kind of problem you’ll face if you begin sending email from a new IP address. When you start sending, ISPs will have no way of judging your reputation, as you have no history of sending from your current IP; this means that your email deliverability could be hit-and-miss for a while.
Unfortunately, there’s not much of a quick fix here: the only way to mitigate this is to begin slowly building your reputation up, a process that email experts call “warming up an IP.” This involves gradually sending an increased volume of email over a designated period of time. Don’t send to your entire list all at once just after receiving a new IP — you may find yourself blacklisted unnecessarily.
If you begin experiencing significant problems related to email deliverability, and you are having trouble getting your email to your subscriber’s inboxes, you have more options than you think for improving the situation. By asking the right questions and taking action to reform your reputation, you can begin to earn the trust of your subscribers and the ISPs for increased deliverability.